Monday, June 26, 2017

Antwun Echols and the Curse of Being a Good Boxer

I was watching the documentary, Counterpunch, on Netflix this past week, and as I was following these three boxers at different stages of their career, it sent me down a Wikipedia rabbit hole of boxers. It took a lot of twists and turns and eventually led me to the Wikipedia page for Antwun Echols. Now unless you are a hardcore boxing fan or from Davenport, Iowa, that name probably doesn't mean anything to you. But I'm a part of that latter group, so I remember him coming up and being one hell of a boxer.

And he was. After losing his very first fight, he would go on to lose once in his next 24 fights. That was enough for him to earn a shot at Bernard Hopkins, who he took the distance but Echols lost the decision. He ended up winning his next two fights to get another shot at Hopkins, but this time he was stopped in the tenth round. Still, that's Bernard Hopkins, one of the greatest fighters of his generation and Echols was competitive in both fights.

Even after that, he managed to win seven of his next eight fights, winning the NABF Super Middleweight Title but losing his chance at the WBA Super Middleweight Title. Still, at this point, he had amassed a 31-5-1 record which isn't going to make him one of the greats, but it's still a pretty damn good career. 

Unfortunately, Echols career continued, as he has had another 22 fights since then. Echols was no longer the young up-and-comer who was smashing stepping stones on his way to title shots. Now, he was the stepping stone, continually put against top prospects. The fights got worse and worse as he went from losing decisions to losing by knockout. He has gone 1-18-3 in those last 22 fights. His one win was against a fighter who had a record of 0-8-2, but Fred Thomas is now 1-15-2, so Echols may have been lucky to meet him before Thomas reached his prime. Probably his most impressive accomplishment in this run is getting knocked out in the third round in seven consecutive fights, a streak that was ended when he lost in 8 seconds in his last fight.

As if that wasn't bad enough, during this run of awful fights, he was also shot in the leg trying to break up a fight. Then, he was immediately arrested at the hospital for possession of crack and failure to pay child support.

And about that child support, despite being busy with a boxing career, that did not stop Echols from getting busy in other ways. In 2013, Echols said in an interview that he "thinks" he has 23 kids. Maybe saddest of all, but definitely most delusional of all, is that when Echols was on a run of 1-14-3, he still had title aspirations

Echols had a great career, fighting for multiple championships but never bringing home the big time titles. Then he had a second career as a punching bag, and nobody was there to tell him that even if the money was decent, it's not a real career. But promoters were willing to keep giving him opportunity, because he was a good name in the boxing community. It didn't matter that he was no longer the same guy; it was actually better. He was the perfect stepping stone. The guy has clearly taken so much damage that he's susceptible to being knocked out by anyone, and that is exactly what's happened.

This story is about Antwun Echols, but it could easily be about dozens of other boxers that hang on for far too long with nobody around them willing or convincing enough to step in and stop them. Antwun Echols rose up from nothing to make something of himself through boxing. Now it appears that boxing will bring him right back to where he started. It's nearly impossible to see a happy ending to this story, so at this point, I'm just hoping for one that isn't tragic.

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